An interview with the visual and music artist, Costin Chioreanu
Costin Chioreanu is one of the most talented and prolific Romanian artists I had the pleasure to talk with. He is bridging music and visual arts with a finesse worthy of the ”artist” title. A combination of high level of ambition, productivity and heavy discipline. From metal and experimental records to graphic novels, conceptual illustration, exhibitions, animations and videos, his portfolio with Twillight13Media studio is a statement.
With a lot of work and effort put into his art Costin manages to amaze with his collaborations and affiliations: Paradise Lost, Lake Of Tears, Napalm Death, Ulver, My Dying Bride, Ghost and Semiosis, amongst many others. In 2017, he released his second album, A Fragile Riddle Crypting Clues with his avant-garde black metal band Bloodway.
It seems easy for you, mister, and making it look easy is also a gift. How do you manage to work in this incredible rhythm?
Well, it is easy and difficult at the same time. I like pretty much what I do, so I have this problem of getting lost in my work. Most of the times, I do not feel like I am working, so maybe that makes things less difficult. In the same time, when I go out of my bubble, I realize that I have several logistical problems in my normal life. But, thanks to Gina, who understands my alien way of living, I can go further.
Last year you were invited by George Bokos of Grindhouse Studios to have an exhibition in Anthens. It was you first one there, how did people receive your work?
The Twilight Visions exhibition in Athens was a success at all levels. Generally, during the last years I worked only with great people who put a lot of passion and dedication into our collaboration. So, I am very thankful for that, including the almighty Universe! As for the rest of my exhibitions, each had a special story, although not all of them are based on an exclusive concept, the way I normally like. Some of them, like this one from Athens, for instance, are based on the evolution of my work made for musicians. This is the single difference, but I will always enjoy more to have an exhibition in my own way: to present an exclusive concept, which is explained through illustrations, music and a happening.
Can you introduce us to your process of making an album cover? Do you prefer working in a certain technique?
I use basically everything, except oil painting. The classic way I work is by having the black and white illustration hand-drawn on paper, scanned, colored and textured on my PC afterwards. But this is not a rule, I change the technique depending on the story and music of my client. I can go through watercolors, various types of mixed media, photography, classic collage, almost any technique out there.
I can imagine you have been listening to all those albums before starting work. How was it to tune into every universe distilled on cassette, cd, vinyl or digital? Have you worked for digital releases too?
Well, this is a very complex question. First, that is because not every time the band gives me the album to listen to. This happened quite often, or to be more precise, until three or four years ago. Nowadays is way better, everyone trusts me and they also understand, some of them even through personal past experiences with me, that by giving me the music it helps them a lot, and the difference is huge. I just wanted to point out this before talking about the rest.
Regarding the second part of your question, yes, indeed, I've done covers for all possible formats, including the digital releases. One of the logistical facts, which influenced my main illustration style was exactly this need of having the possibility of rearranging the composition of the same piece, for different types of releases. For example, if you have a painting done on square format, it will be difficult rearranging it from square to landscape. If you have a piece with elements which can be adjusted, then you can make it look really well on a layout of every kind of shape.
You were once mentioning digging deeper into your childhood for fresh energy, but I am really curious how is your energy different now from 2007? Have you grown wiser and older or you still have to learn new things?
Ah, I was saying that while thinking of my childhood, I was not that young back in 2007. Well, obviously, younger than now, but that decade is not the one I was talking about. The energy I need is from the pre-2000s period when everything in my head and soul which was connected with the heavy metal music was nothing but pure magic and fascination. That kind of purity before meeting the human and logistic factors, so to say, hahahaha!
Speaking of the 2007 era, well, I was way more childish for sure. I was also influenced by totally different things back then. Maybe there was too much darkness around my head and less knowledge about what can be found beyond that. That energy was mostly negative and I was enjoying that quite much. Now, things are totally different on my side, and I don't think I will be capable in this life to learn at least half of the things I should. Not to mention about those for which I have no clue about right now. So, yeah, I would say I’ve grown wiser, but I am far from knowing everything, all that remains for me is nothing but a sci-fi theme.
Nowadays, people come to you because of your reputation and amazing portfolio. How does that freedom feel? Do you consider your heavy disciplined work as the best marketing tool for an artist?
Yes, discipline always makes you better, no matter what you do. If you work with many other people, it is highly necessary. As about that feeling of freedom, yes, it is amazing, after all these years, to see musicians having super-confidence and they just come over, with their stories and music on the table, in order to let me do my magic. That is one of the things I was dreaming about, at the beginning, as I knew very well that I am capable of doing this natively, I have it in my blood. Now, it is happening and it is amazing, of course, it helps me a lot, going further. Everybody is happy and it is a normal way. You don't go to a shaman and tell him how to do his spells. But indeed, you need to know that he is a very good shaman.
Do you consider your music complementary to your visual art?
Well, I wish it to be complementary. That's why I try with my solo releases to go beyond any musical norm in order to increase the level of expression. So, basically, I play any instrument which is requested by the visuals, in order to express properly the theme, nothing is random or picked in order just to have something cool.
From solo work to different music collaborations, your attitude toward music seems always oriented through exploration. What can you tell us about your philosophy regarding composing and recording your music? Do you prefer working alone or in a more collaborative way, involving other musicians into the creative process?
I started in 1996 with my very first homemade project, which was a one-man black metal thing. So, before I experienced working with others, I started by working alone. Then I was dreaming of having a real band, and once that dream became a reality, a door to human hell was opened, hahaha! I always like to come up with my thing and if I am not composing absolutely everything by myself, I still like to come up with the main structure of a song.
For Subway Night Orchestra, Nightpray and all my solo releases, I composed everything by myself, so I have a long-time experience of working alone or/and working with other musicians after the main composition was already done. But I also love to jam, and to play around with spontaneous and explosive musicians. I love that, I love to see a song coming out from that ”nothing”, marking the distance between a few creative minds, gathered in a room for experiencing the magic of music together. I love that, it is pure magic.
You have the experience of working with a lot of musicians and music studios and, in my opinion, this is one hell of an experience. From all these interactions, do you have any particular one that you would like to share?
There were many great moments... But I will always remember what I felt when I received the first layers added by Rune Eriksen (Blasphemer – Earth Electric, Aura Noir, Ex-Mayhem) on my “Where Purgatory Ends” soundtrack. That was divine at so many points, I almost fainted.
Do you have a preferred physical format for music?
My favorite format is the cassette. For me it has the sound I enjoy the most, it is small, looks precious somehow. Maybe there is a lot of nostalgia involved, thinking that I started on both sides (visual and musical) by working with this format. My first illustrations connected with music were made as hand-drawn covers for my collection of bootleg cassettes and at the same time, all the demos with the bands I was playing with between 1996 and 2002 were mostly recorded on the same format.
2017 was a milestone for your band Bloodway. You have released your second album A Fragile Riddle Crypting Clues and you received great reviews from both music critics and fans. How is the evolution of the band going?
Yes, you put it out right. That is all. I could market way more things than that, but that is not my style at all. Secondly, I wanted Bloodway to be a new beginning for me in music. So, from music to marketing I wanted to be away from the past... At least mine.
With the new album, we’ve just completed a trilogy, which we started with our very first release, and that makes things very interesting now. We all know that this is a meeting point, a big crossroad where from we can pick any of these paths, being such a libertine band. We may change something on the aspect of playing live, so to say. I feel the need to update some aspects, which in the classic musical scene are overused and totally obsolete.
After the ”Colectiv” tragedy you have released the compilation A Quest For The Morning Star. Can you share the story behind this release?
The music gathered under the name “A Quest For The Morning Star” was not composed and recorded for Colectiv, was just gathered under this compilation in order to raise money for the victims of Colectiv. At the beginning, I was happy that I can do something so I put this release out with all my heart and good intentions. This compilation gather all the music I have composed for my exhibitions starting with 2011. First, this compilation was made just for Bandcamp, in order to be released digitally, for people all over the world to be able to buy it in a second. I gathered from the online sales 1700 euro, which I donated to four victims of Colectiv. Later, the compilation was released by a label with many connections and good distribution, Avantgarde Music from Italy. So, the music was great, the presentation was great, as it was a luxurious A5 digipak. The cause was right. They told me they will donate the profit. O.K, that was cool, I was happy that I could do more, thinking that maybe I will be capable to raise money for more people.
After a few months of waiting for the label to sell the copies, I received 500 euro. Then I started to see who was in need. Honestly, from all the victims I asked around, I got a similar answer: „we are covered, we don't need anything”. It felt strange. I was happy that people were having everything they needed, but at the same I felt frustrated. In the end, I donated this money to one of the four guys I donated originally. I wanted to be a different person, but it seems that nobody needed anything, at least the ones I had contacted.
This is the story of A Quest For The Morning Star.
I get the feeling that some of your dystopian imaginary travels that generate beautiful artwork have an activist nucleus. Do I get this right?
Yes, but in a different perspective than the “commercial” one. There is a big fat Don Quijote out there indeed, but he has nothing to do with trends in the matter of public manifestation, so to say. I guess my Don Quijote knows he is a Don Quijote and not a savior of humanity. He knows that he has no clue about the real Universe out there. He knows that religion was made as a co-habitation catalyst. He knows that words cannot express much. He might have a secret love for more than half of the Buddhist teachings and he is too bohemian to realize that human reality is way eviler than he will ever comprehend. At the same time, the poor guy realizes another paradox: everything he might accuse or blame in society and its system can be a useful thing if you start seeing things from a distance and change a bit the perspective of this eternal idealist, a defender of some of the best qualities possessed by a model imposed in education by the same people who created the system...
In a world overpopulated, torn by conflict, climate change and big unignorably socio-political issues, is human imagination the most powerful tool we have at hand?
Yes. And we started to learn that we are not using much of our brain either. Maybe time machines or star ships we imagine are from another place than we think. I dare to say the human mind. The word “imagination”, in our tricky post-paranoid way of appreciation, can make it sound more like something childish or anyway, something unreal.
So, I would suggest using the term “human mind”, as I consider imagination a process of the mind. Imagine what will happen if one million people will focus and project at the very same time, with full passion, love and trust. That projection will be pretty damn powerful... It might affect the worldwide circus. But I guess nobody really wants that.
Your debut book includes all your art projects, they are all gathered on Magic As A Golden Mean, but you also have your own digital shop where people can buy your artworks and your merchandise. How important is self-promotion and this independent entrepreneur attitude of selling your own merchandise, making your own money and not having a boss?
After ages spent in advertising companies and having my graphic design studio Twilight13Media as a nightshift, I was really happy when I could leave that life and put my energy just into my studio. Since then, it was a huge explosion of creativity and high speed for evolution. As for the shop and merchandise, it came out as a request from people who enjoyed my work, from all over the world. After receiving questions and requests about prints and other stuff, I said OK, I should do that, and I did it. It’s not much, since I always like to have super-limited editions without re-prints and low-minded-commercial crap, but it is what it is. Everybody is happy this way. I am doing things because everybody knows it is all about passion, and there is no one there in the shadow trying to steal something from them or trick them anyhow. The worst thing you can live in the absence of a boss, is to end up like me, to wake up in a severe burn-out after three years and realize that MAYBE you reached that problematic level because you had zero vacation days for all that time.
I believe that Outside The Great Circle is an amazing highlight in your work and that the best is yet to come for Twilight 13 Media right now. What happens next in this world domination business plan that the studio has?
Thank you, but the studio never had a plan, except the one to go where nobody went before, hahaha! I am not that sure that I succeeded in that, so I will focus more on this from now on. This might be the only task I can have.
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